Every other commercial these days seems to be hawking a new cell-phone plan with more minutes and snazzier phones, leaving those of us with long-term contracts feeling like we got the short end of the stick.

But don't despair. A cell-phone contract isn't a life sentence. Here are five tips to help you renegotiate your plan:

Do a Web survey. Use the Web and other resources to discover what competitors are offering. Does a rival phone company have the apparatus you want at a lower price? Make note of it so you can tell your provider. What do you really want? More anytime minutes? A phone upgrade? A lower monthly bill? Sure, you want it all, but try to be realistic. Decide what you can live without before contacting your provider.

Document everything. When you are prepared to call your carrier, have a pen and paper ready, and settle in for a long wait. You're likely to be passed from operator to operator during the negotiation process, so take careful notes and write down the names of everyone who helps you.

Don't take no for an answer. If one of the customer service agents you speak with refuses to budge on minutes or phone models, politely ask to speak to his or her manager. You may get an entirely different response.

Don't make demands. Most providers are willing to make concessions to keep your business. But remember: This is a negotiation, not a stand off.

If you find that your cell-phone provider can't meet your needs and you want out of your contract before it expires, consider using a service, such as Celltradeusa.com or Cellswapper.com. These Web sites connect fed up users with people interested in taking over their contracts.

While not common practice, switching users is perfectly legal and can help you avoid hefty termination fees.

Copyright (c) 2007 MarketWatch, Inc.